Welcome, Mamma Crew! Today is Mamma Thursdays when it’s all about us! The mammas!
Now I’m going to be perfectly honest with you. My desire to become a mother when I reached that point in my life was so great that I never stopped to think about what it would be like to be an older mother.
And in fact, even after I gave birth, it didn’t dawn on me that my challenges would go beyond those that I had experienced during my pregnancy.
But ironically, it was my mother and mother-in-law who first made it clear to me that I was different. My mother-in-law was kind enough to travel to San Diego, California, to help me out with my babies. The issue became that only one of my babies was released from the NICU — Emmy. The other baby — Andy — remained in the NICU for eight more weeks.
And my mother-in-law had this attitude that I would want to be without my baby. The reality is I wanted to be with Emmy all of the time. And I was tortured by the fact that I couldn’t be with Andy all of the time because she was still in the NICU. There was never a moment in which I didn’t want to be with my baby. And this frustrated my mother-in-law because she had fully expected me to want to need breaks.
But I didn’t. Well, let me put it this way — I needed the breaks I — just didn’t want to take them. My mother, on the other hand, became very frustrated with me because I never asked for her advice. Both of my sisters had had their kids when they were younger. The first of my sisters to give birth was only 18 years old, and the second was in her mid-twenties. So they asked my mother for endless pieces of advice.
I gave birth at the age of 40. And just a few months later, turned 41. I didn’t ask anyone for advice. It never even occurred to me to ask for help. I was a confident 40-year-old woman. I knew what to do. And when I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t turn to my mother-in-law, or my mother, but the doctor, because the challenges that my children had as my premature babies were quite different than your common problems faced by most newborns and their moms.
Also, I never wanted help. The only time that I truly wanted or needed help was at night — I was the mother of twins, and I was breastfeeding for 18 long months! I was exhausted. I never had enough sleep. And frankly, at some point, I just threw in the towel and took the babies to my bed because I was exhausted. So I did not ask for help. I did not want it, and frankly, for the most part, I didn’t need it. And to be honest with you, I was a bit on the paranoid side. I was sure that no one could do the job that I could — taking care of my babies.
It wasn’t until my kids became toddlers that I began to recognize I had a severe challenge on my hands. The mothers who had children the same age as mine tended to be 10 to 15 years younger than me. And they were continually turning to members of their family for support and help. They thought that it was extraordinary that I didn’t do that. And, they often spoke to me as though I was Wonder Woman.
Now the reality is I had insecurities — I just didn’t share the dangers of their age. They were significantly younger than me. And of course, they made a lot of dumb assumptions about who I was as an older mother. I can’t tell you the number of times that I was asked if I had the energy to take care of my babies. Or people would mention that I couldn’t possibly have the power to take care of the babies, because of course, I was older than they were.
This issue became more poignant when we moved to Michigan, where most women were giving birth in their late teens or early twenties. So now, that age gap became greater. I can remember one mother asking me how it was that I managed to have the energy to follow my toddler’s into a bouncy house. I don’t know how I had the power. I just did, and honestly, it wasn’t until into my late 40s, early 50s, that I started to feel my energy drain, but that’s because I had health problems, not necessarily related to my an I was also often asked by the younger mothers if I was comfortable with the idea that I would die when my children were young. I always felt that was a genuinely ignorant question. No one knows when they’re going to die. Yes, we can assume that there is a high probability that I won’t be around to experience my grandchildren’s teenage years. At least I hope so! I hope my children do not have their babies in their teens or early twenties!
But it is dumb to assume that the fact that I am an older mother means I’m going to be dying soon. A point that was made when a young woman, a mother of an infant and a toddler in our community, was accidentally electrocuted in her backyard, leaving two young children behind. There are simply no guarantees in life.
And of course, all these issues made it difficult for me to make friends with these younger mothers. We didn’t have a lot in common. Our maturity level was very different, and it also meant that our educational level was different. I have several degrees under my belt. I’m not struggling through my college years. And I have been a professional woman for a long time. I have also traveled extensively. Unlike the younger mothers, I never felt that I was missing out on anything.
I often heard them complain about missing out on parties or going out with their girlfriends. Not me. That part of my life had been fully realized, and now, I was in a new stage in life, and I was enjoying it to the fullest just as I had enjoyed the previous steps. I never felt that I was missing anything out. It never even occurred to me.
I also noticed that younger mothers had a more chaotic approach to parenting. They didn’t know what to do, how to do it, and often reach crisis mode at the slightest challenge. As an older mother, I had a clearer vision of what I wanted to do and, when I encounter a difficulty, my approach was to research it extensively, find several ways of dealing with the problem and determine which method suited our family and our children best.
In general, I felt I had a calmer approach to parenting. Things didn’t frazzle me as quickly. I had a lot of maturity and experience to draw upon even if that experience had nothing to do with children. But they had a lot to do with facing challenges in life.
I also felt that I had a greater appreciation for my children. I truly enjoyed being with my kids. I enjoyed everything from playing with them, bath time, storytelling — just absolutely everything! I enjoyed it so much that last year before we added Bug and Dora to our family, I was reading bedtime stories to my girls — just for the fun of it! And the thing was that they enjoyed hearing the stories as much as I enjoyed reading it to them.
I never minded buying my girls a pretty dress or a toy, or taking them to a park or sacrificing — let me rephrase that — allocating resources so that I could take them to places they would enjoy rather than going to places that perhaps would be enjoyable to me as an adult. And I say ‘rephrase that’ because it never felt like a sacrifice to me. I thoroughly enjoyed those experiences — taking them to the Munchy Crunchy Apple Farm in Michigan; taking them to Disney World, Disneyland, Seaworld — all of those places. My resources were best allocated, enjoying my children, and providing them with beautiful experiences.
Now, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel lonely at times. I can see the camaraderie that went along with the group of younger mothers — I did think that I was missing out on that. And I did try several times to become part of those groups. But frankly, I found the women annoying. Now that’s a character flaw — I have to be honest with you. I find small talks and chit chat to be overall dull.
And so, when they were talking about watching a TV show or how frustrated they were with their children, how much they wished they were out with their friends — I was just bored.
Bored out of my mind. And in fact, I soon realized I didn’t want to be part of that group. Things changed for me when I came to that realization. Frequently what I would do is I would take the kids to these play dates and bring a beautiful book along with that I could enjoy. I didn’t feel an obligation to socialize with these women. And I also realized that just because I had children, didn’t mean that I couldn’t socialize with people that I enjoyed.
So while I was always friendly to the younger mommies, and I socialize on the periphery of their group, I certainly stopped making an effort to be part of the group and found my tribe. A group of women that I can fully enjoy, and they made me feel good about myself and to whom I could provide value as well. They enjoyed ‘me.’ This was not an obligation just because we had children the same age. And frankly, finding this tribe made me extraordinarily happy, and as a result, I was a more relaxed and better mother.
Another thing that was nice about being an older mother was while a lot of the younger moms were bored or wanted to move past their children’s exploration of this new world quickly; I never did. I could honestly tell you I have thoroughly enjoyed every stage of my children’s life.
Ok — the infant stage was insane! But only because I gave birth to twins! Toddler years were fabulous; early elementary were great; Oh! I would say overall that elementary school years were a lot of fun, and when we shifted from private school to homeschooling, it was beautiful to have them home all the time, going on all those field trips with them and explore this new world. I found my joy in things that had long been forgotten.
You know, the joy of seeing or touching your first dolphin; the experience of going to Disney world for the first time.
Christmas took on a new and unique meaning. It reminded me so much of what it was like when I was a child. It was a real pleasure! And while the younger mom’s talked about how they were missing the toddler stages and wished they were not in the early elementary school years, not me! Every new step brought wonder and joy — and I drank it all in. So I had no horror stories to share with the other matters.
When they had their little pity parties about how frustrated they were me, I was just happy. Ecstatic that I had children; Ecstatic that I was experiencing that particular stage in their life. And learning to live with the fact that the younger moms thought I was weird. Frankly, I was considered strange before I had children, so, why would that be any different, right? I just kind of went with it.
Now the one thing that I do have to admit is that even today, it still hurts my feelings when the younger mothers point out to me that I didn’t have as many children as I would have liked. I wanted four and gave birth to two –Because of my age. That is true — but life is full of surprises. And even though I only gave birth to two kids, I now have four.
So you cannot be limited by people’s short-sightedness. And the younger moms could be quite mean about it. They always really enjoy pointing out that I had not been able to create the family that I had wanted. And of course, they could because they had time on their side.
Now, do I wish that I had done things differently? I would love to tell you that I would. I would like to have done things differently so that I could have the four kids — or rather had given birth to the four kids that I had wanted. But then perhaps, or more than likely, they would not be my husband’s children. They would be somebody else’s children. And I would miss out on having had Emmy and Andy. And perhaps I would have missed out adding Dora and Bug to our family later on in life.
So when I start thinking of that, I realize I would not change a thing. Things happened the best way possible — because I have a great family as a result. A family I genuinely love.
So on that note, what would I tell a woman in her early 30s or early 40s — or even 50s, nowadays — who wanted to become a first-time mother, or who wanted to have another child in their lives? Honestly, I would tell you; I would say to them it’s not always easy; people will be judgemental, and there will be times when you will feel alone.
But the reality is that children are a joy. And if you understand that there are these minor drawbacks, You will be able to fully enjoy the experience of being an older mother. Additionally, you’re not alone! We’re out here waiting for you! Ready to embrace you into our tribe! So go for it girl do what makes you happy — what is right for you!
If you share an imperfect journey to motherhood, please subscribe to our podcast. For links and resources, please visit our website. Till next time… Toodles….